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Race review: Acting black, from trash teens and transracial Rachel, to fake activists

02 May 2018

Do you remember when David Starkey announced that “the whites have become black” during the 2011 London riots? Even though footage showed that white people and black people looted and raged side by side, the sentiment that disorder is uniquely tied to black culture echoed the thoughts of many discontent white people. This was a black problem, this was what happened when black people influence culture.

The phrase “acting black” is used with such frequency to encompass everything from using slang to listening to rap music – at the most, it suggests a lack of intelligence and violence. This week’s news has led me to question what behaviour is expected of black people, from cultural appropriation to transracial people.


15-year-old Danielle Bregoli, who now goes by the rap name Bhad Bhabie (rather than “Cash Me Outside” girl) is rounding off a good month having been nominated for Top Female Rap Artist alongside Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, and receiving a reality TV deal. Her brand received another boost when she was filmed acting out in public arguing with 18-year-old, WoahhVicky, nine-year-old Lil Tay. All of these Gen Z influencers shot to fame for a so-called approximation of blackness.

In this case, “blackness” is apparently Bregoli’s penchant for stealing cars and picking fights, WoahhVicky’s recent adoption of racial slurs after she claimed to find DNA evidence that proves she is 25% African, and Lil Tay’s “work hard” mantra that means now she brags every item in her closet “costs more than your momma’s rent”.

Radio presenter Ebro Darden, 43, said: “See… the Bhad Bhabie thing to me is about white kids wanting mimic the worst aspects of Black culture for fun.” According to him, all cultures have been affected by “black ghetto street culture”. As amusing as they are to watch, these teens have got nothing to do with “black culture” and any suggestion otherwise, only feeds into the white paranoia that a multi-cultural society will taint white children.

Black people don’t need to be burdened with having to defend or condemn these children, and I’m wary of taking responsibility for any tearaway that uses slang.


So, Netflix finally aired The Rachel Divide, a sensitive look at a woman who caused a media storm when she told the world that she identified as transracial. While I will leave it to you guys to watch and decide if you warm to her cause (at this point most people’s minds are made up), what I will say, is this woman is clearly determined to act black forever. And if it is any consolation, her vision of blackness is more positive than the Gen Z Instagram brats of the moment.

The doc details her social justice background as she fought against racist hate mail as the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. The subsequent furore has left black activists at the organisation having to fight to regain trust via “integrity rallies” and the police have incidentally dropped the hate mail investigation they were working on at the time Dolezal was exposed. She’s since taken up afro hairdressing doing box braids, kinky twists and more to make ends meet, which is quite impressive considering, I mean, I can’t even box braid.

In the end, out of all the warped imitations of blackness you see in the media – at least Rachel’s was one of activism and pan-African pride. But there is also an overwhelming sense of irony in her choice to put so much energy into acting like an oppressed minority, and now finding it hard to get jobs, and escape prejudice.


  • Halsey took to Twitter to criticise the lack of toiletries for hotel guests with afro hair. “I’ve been travelling for years now and it’s been so frustrating that the hotel toiletry industry entirely alienates people of colour,” she said. “I can’t use this perfumed watered down white people shampoo. Neither can 50% of ur [sic] customers. Annoying.” A lot of Twitter users ridiculed her for the tweet, saying the singer “wants to be black”. However, Halsey has spoken about her mixed heritage and the fact that she often passes as white.

  • Black Lives Matter (BLM) officials have responded after the shock revelation that one of the biggest BLM profiles was a scam run by a white man in Australia. Facebook has now removed the page which had 700,000 followers and raised some $100,000, by claiming to be associated with the activist organisation. “Since its inception, the Black Lives Matter Global Network has regularly dealt with the misappropriation of our name and likeness, which has compromised the integrity of our local, national, and global work,” the group wrote on their official site. Read the CNN investigation here.
  • The Home Office is under fire (again) after the UN criticised “racism” of British police forces after a report found ethnic minority people are three times more likely to be Tasered than white people. Now, we could make links between the constant obsession between linking black people with bad behaviour and disproportionate violence from the state but … it’s almost too obvious.
  • Theresa May announced that every April 22 will be known as “Stephen Lawrence Day” in honour of the murder that exposed the Metropolitan Police as institutionally racist.
  • German label Warwear has deleted all social media accounts and its website after backlash online. The company featured in an i-D “up-and-coming designers you should keep an eye on” feature in Germany. However, its core designs – two flags of warring nations like Israel and Palestine – were seen to be crude attempts to profit from conflict.